7 04 2009

Lauren and I skipped the Bubba Float this weekend with the beloved Bubba crew to hammer down on some texturizing, priming and painting of the upstairs walls at our new house. I had prepared the sheetrock to the best of my ability…

…so that Lauren could apply some paint…

She’s been deliberating on paint colors for quite a while. When you build a house by yourselves, there’s lots of time to change your mind about stuff. Anyway, she had nailed down some great colors, and after consulting with her mom and some of her girlfriends, we thought we were ready. A fortuitous mistake at the paint store left us without one of her intended colors, Butterscotch, but gave us Rust, a color she’d looked closely at anyway. As it turns out, we used both of them. We’ll need to take some more pictures to show it all off, but here’s a view across the loft.

The orange is a color called Pumpkin Cream. We’re both loving it. There is a thin little ledge above the stairs that separates the wall into two sections. I’ll plan on building a stainless planter for that special space and we are both excited about having some snakegrass add a splash of variegated green across it. The gold color in the middle is called Gold Leaf. It’s a great warm color and looks awesome between the orange and our Rust red east wall. This was the accident color, but I think it looks great.

We got so excited about our colors that we went out and bought our tile for the upstairs bathroom. We’ll have to get some pictures of that. So the loft is looking pretty good. We had a color picked out for the two long walls, but it ended up being kinda funky. Lauren went back to the paint chips and found something that would be more neutral and wouldn’t distract from our splashes of accent colors.

As it turns out, my sheetrock finishing skills are pretty good. Our joints look very nice and I’m proud to be learning a new skill. There’s plenty of work left to do downstairs, but this colorizing has given us that extra boost that we need to be truly inspired.


Here’s a teaser

20 03 2009

My friend Damon is remodeling a house here in Little rock. He’s totally into the modern look. Anyway, he’s taking an ugly duckling and making a really cool modern house. He goofed around with Google Sketchup to help him finalize his ideas. Here’s a quick and dirty rendering I’ve done of our new house. He told me it wasn’t too hard, and he was mostly right. Luckily, every time you make a huge error with this free software, you can undo it!

As I get more time, I might make some changes to this sketch. I might use it to finalize the design for the front balcony and porch area.

No Naked sheetrockers in little Rock!

19 03 2009

Ah, the art of hanging sheetrock requires…no, demands certain character requirements; physical, mental, and perhaps even criminal. At least that’s the way we carpenters see it. There are a few normal folks out there that are sheetrockers by trade, but they seem to be few.

Many that we’ve experienced over the years are quirky in the least. Some are truly bizarre. Most present themselves with a certain unsavory “musk”. What is it about sheetrockers and B.O.? Truly one of life’s great mysteries.

One of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard involves a well known NWA sheetrocker who was sighted mudding/taping some joints in the “cabin” project of one of our Roger’s friends. A neighbor happened out at night and saw “Fast Eddy” working late thru some large windows. This wasn’t particularly strange considering Eddy’s ‘flexible schedule’. What she did notice, however, was that he was entirely naked. Well, except for his work boots. You gotta be careful around the jobsite, you know.

In the end, I’m sure he did a great job with those joints in the sheetrock. I hope that I can develop some of those same skills as I work through this project. I’ll be looking forward to getting to the taping stage. The funny thing is, I try so hard to describe Eddy’s physical stature to Lauren, so that she can know just what an awesome sight he must have been that night, but I’m not sure that her vision can ever be as comical as mine. Maybe one day we’ll see that old yellow van cruising around town and she can get a glimpse of her own.

Here’s a look down our hallway toward the back door. The door on the left leads into Lauren’s study. I have a vintage half-light door with divided glass that we’ll install there. It’ll give it that old school building flare.

Our homemade laminated cypress beams are notched right into the wall. We’ll put a nice shiny finish on them and we think they’ll look great!

Here’s a view into our kitchen area. We’ll have some cabinets in there eventually.

So, my experience thus far has led me to an understanding of the process, but not one of the lifestyle. I still work with my clothes on, and I have yet to develop a world class stink (at least nothing that can’t be removed by a good lathering in the shower).

Moving on…finally

19 03 2009

After laboring on such essential things as electricity, running water, flammable gases, and hot and cold air, our rough-in inspection has been completed and we are working on sheetrock. What a milestone this is. The ambiguous planes are becoming real. Lauren is super-excited. The walls are becoming walls, the ceilings…ceilings. Hanging the sheetrock isn’t itself particularly difficult or mentally taxing. It’s just heavy and awkward at times. I broke one piece so far. I was in the bathroom downstairs and I had the large sheet tacked into place, or so I thought, with three screws. As I reached down for more fasteners, it broke free from the ceiling and cracked into pieces right across the top of my head!

We’ll get some photos of the new walls up soon. Looking back at the inspection process, it was the most nervous time for me. To take off work and wait for the inspector to arrive only to officially turn me down was my biggest fear. In the end, all four of the city guys were very cool, and after a few false starts with the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC stuff, we passed our inspections. The framing inspection was a piece of cake, as it should have been. I had a pretty good mentor. Thanks, Dad!

Here’s some “relaxed” romex. Mr. Walsh was adamant about this. I originally bought and installed about 600 staples. I swept up at least 300 of those after I pulled them out. What I thought was neat and tidy was excessive for him!

He liked the work that I did with the ground and neutral wires in the breaker panel. I tried to keep “flowing” bends and not pull anything too tightly.

And even though our panel inside had a master cutoff, he required us to have one outside as well. We needed a meter socket anyway, so here’s what I installed on the back of the garage. We’ll be bringing our power in underground, so everything will look really nice in our new backyard oasis.

This was the moment we were so excited about. Check it out…four signatures on our rough-in lines!

As a matter of fact, the gas company came out by surprise and trenched in the lines. They set our meter base. We didn’t even have to call ’em.

On the outside looking in from time to time…

17 02 2009

HEY! This is Lauren…thought I’d bring you all an update so Ryan can work longer on the house tonight (crack that whip!). I can’t thank Ryan enough for all the hard work he’s been putting in lately. I don’t know how he has so much energy to work on our house every day, but he’s been doing an awesome job. I think he’ll be pretty happy to move onto working with sheetrock and trim, more familiar territory than wires and pipes. Roxie and I walked over last night to check on him, and he almost has everything ready for inspections. He still needs to finish wrapping the HVAC ductwork with insulation, which I think he’ll work on tonight. Here’s a pic of it, with the plenum insulated and ready to hold some air registers.

He finished his last plenum for the HVAC registers this weekend. Here’s a pic of him and his lovely plenum thru the garage window.

Here’s another picture of Ryan using his favorite tool to build the plenum- it’s a $6 metal bending thing from some store in the ghetto.

He still has to run a vent from the furnace out through the roof, and it will look like this, but like fifteen feet taller…

I think he’s pretty much ready to face an onslaught from the city inspectors later this week…the plumbing is holding 60 psi of air (after many adjustments and late night trips to Home-away-from-home Depot). Our gas pipes are holding steady at 60 psi, too. Our walls are standing tall and straight (of course- they were built by a Johnson!), and our electrical looks masterfully placed (it’s really tidy and doesn’t look like a mess of spaghetti). The ductwork is looking oh-so-shiny and warm, wrapped in its coat of insulation. So, cross your fingers, hold your breath, and pucker your cheeks…we’re getting inspected.

Oh, and besides studying, I’ve been trying to pick out some paint colors. We both want bold colors on a few well-designated accent walls. The berry will go on one wall of my study, with the soft ecru on the 3 other walls. The blue color will go in the downstairs bathroom, perhaps with some soft ecru in there, too. Maybe soft ecru in the hallway??

We both like sweet mandarin for one small wall upstairs (the closet wall that faces the living room), and either yellow finch or citron (though it might be a bit dark) for the entire north wall, both downstairs and upstairs.

And here’s a picture of Roxie. She’s certainly plenty colorful! If she had enough time at the new house, she might just get around to eating all of the sawdust off the floors.

We’ll update with results of the inspections soon…

Inspections…I wish.

26 01 2009

We’re getting close to being ready for a few crucial inspections: plumbing, electrical, hvac, and framing. I’ll be glad to get through all of that. There are some key details that need to be finished up before we’re ready for any one of those though. One detail I did take care of was surprising Lauren with a clean shaven face…

Or did I?

Here’s a finished picture of our front door entry switch box.

Here’s what a normally sane person looks like after drinking a Red Bull, fishing wire, and attempting to decode the “code” in the big blue residential code book.

I told you I was going to get some stainless for my workbench tops. Actually, it’s just galvanized steel. I ain’t complaining. The price was definitely right — zero $$$. They are the sweetest benchtops I could imagine. My little workshop is taking shape. The move to the new shop has lead to the salvage of many good items, such as the shelving you see in the corner along with all of the flourescent fixtures that I’ll use in the garage.

I’ve procrastinated enough! After learning that I goofed on my supply air plenums for the registers in Lauren’s study and our bedroom by making them out of wood instead of metal, I have dreaded redoing them. I started this week. I found an awesome new tool at Harbor freight last weekend. The black flat thing is the new dandy! It is pretty simple in that it has two grooves on each edge that allows me to make a straight bend in light gauge sheetmetal up to 18 inches wide. It was super cheap! I’m going to buy Clay one so he can keep it in his truck because it is super handy for small quick projects.

Here’s the first of five boxes that I had to make.

I fit together all of our gas pipe last weekend on Saturday. On Sunday, I took it all apart and redid it because I had a bunch of leaks. What a waste of time! I learned two good lessons that I shared with my bro…

A. Use more teflon tape than you think you need and…
2. If you aren’t breathing hard while putting the pipe together, then you ain’t twisting it hard enough.

I know that’s not very scientific advice, but the passion and feeling is there. He’ll know what to do with it. Here’s a shot of my homemade pressure checker gauge.

It’s on the magic number! Let’s hope it stays that way until tomorrow.

Life is tough when you learn from your mistakes along the way. It seems that the lessons stick with you though. I’m glad that instead of skinning knees and being embarrassed at junior high dances, that I can deal with my mistakes with a hammer drill these days. I’ve already made this statement…I love my borrowed drill! I’ll have to just keep this one and buy my dad a new one. When you are a virgin plumber these things happen.

There we go…enough room for the installation of the tub drain. I have the tub set now and installing the rough-in valve and connecting the tubing is all I have to finish on the plumbing!

Too all who’ve checked out our page, thanks for keeping up with our progress. I’ll keep hammering down.

2009 and Beyond

6 01 2009

Every year it’s the same. A few days into a new annum, I have to write down a date. Only then do I truly realize that another calendar needs to be recycled and I have another great Arkansas spring to look forward to. Some years it happens well into January. This year it happened today. I could see myself losing track completely if I was a hermit in the woods.

I thought I’d post up some images of my brother Clay’s new front door. It is a fine example of why I’m so proud of him. You have to see it to believe it! The frame is made of tubular steel and it is covered in steel on the outside and black walnut on the inside. It splits in the middle so that he’ll be able to swing out the top on pretty days and look outside, while Addie is safe to play inside.

Check out the “eyebrow” on the porthole window…

He fit each piece of walnut to the next…

The things he does would drive any man crazy. I have to make my projects a bit more simple so the pace is more manageable. Here’s some plumbing at the base of the water heater. I installed a pressure regulator to protect our equipment. There’s the main shut-off valve as well.

I have been spending a lot of time in this corner of the garage lately. It’s where all the magic will happen. Our furnace/AC unit, the water heater, and the breaker panel are all right there.

Some might think I’m a dork, but I’m really excited about these workbenches. I am getting some stainless tops to cover the plywood from my boss for super cheap $$$. It will make a good fabrication surface for fun projects. I placed the outlets below the bench top so that I don’t have cords dragging through all of my parts and/or project stuff on top. I also bent some conduit and set some boxes for a switchable trio of over-the-bench lights. They’ll be great to help me see what I’m doing when I build my new motorcycle!

I have been able to place most of my receptacle and switchboxes in the wood framing inside the house. There are two switchboxes I had to cut into the block wall. One was in the bedroom so we could switch the fan and light from the bed, and the other is in our entry by the front door. This one is a four-gang box that will have switches for the front porch light, the soffit lights under my man-loft, and the light and fan over the living area. The wire on the left, going up, took at least 45 minutes to “fish” through a hole in the outside of the block. It was one of the shortest single pieces of wire that I’ve installed and the second most pain in the ass. The memory is much to painful to divulge too much information, but my greatest pain in the ass was the two wires I ran for the stove. It was a six hour battle royale. Luckily, I was the victor! Just for the record…just because the code says that you can stuff a certain number of wires into a given size of conduit, doesn’t mean you should!

The wood to the right will be part of a column that will hide all the wires. I’ll layer it with some plywood and another 2×4 to get the thickness I want and then wrap it with cypress trim.

I never thought I would love a tool as much as this one. My dad will be lucky to get this one back! Just kidding, Dad. I’ll bring it back when I get done…or buy my own. Anyway, a hammer drill is an indispensable part of the block home builder’s tool arsenal. I couldn’t have done without it.

Building a block home is also a sure-fire way to kill a good wood chisel. Here’s how it goes…a good carpenter always has a nice chisel in his toolbags. He builds a home made of concrete. He needs to chip some blocks…bang, bang, bang and you have a bent and dull wood chisel! Early on in this project I had to sacrifice this innocent 3/4″ Stanley chisel. All I can say is this, I’ve done a good job limiting my concrete chiselling to this one sad little tool. We’ll make it though. I have full confidence. Here’s a lame attempt at still life art.

I had to use some surface mount boxes in two places. In the kitchen, these boxes are for the receptacles above the counter. They are 15/16ths deep. I plan to screw some 3/4 plywood to the wall around them to create a backsplash all around the kitchen. We may tile it or wrap it with stainless. I think Lauren and I both are favoring the idea of a stainless accent to our concrete countertops. The raceways hiding the wires will run just under the inside of the counter hidden inside the cabinetry. I think it will work nicely.

The other places I’m using surface mount boxes are along the exterior walls in Lauren’s study and in the living room. Those boxes are deeper and I will butt the base trim into the sides of the boxes. The trim will nail to a top and bottom strip that I’ll screw to the blocks. The wires will hide in the channel between the strips. The finished base trim will be 1 1/2 inches thick, but I think that it will look nice when I get all done with it. The important thing is that we won’t have any exposed conduit anywhere in the house. People have been asking me how I planned on wiring a block house! I have put a of of thought into it and am confident that the end result will be a nice clean installation.